To My Dad At Christmas
I wonder, did the bullet sting as it tore through the torment in your mind? Did it indeed end your pain-or is that the moment when your suffering truly began? I wonder if you thought of me, of her…of any of us as your spirit fled from your lifeless body and you watched as the black fabric slowly zipped closed over your face.
Did your heart give pause? Was there even a moment of remorse, perhaps as you discovered that once again you had chosen something else before me? Did your spirit cringe as you finally understood that in that moment just as in every one before you had never considered how I would feel—or that I would be the one to carry the weight of your choice for the rest of my life?
When I was a little girl, I watched you choose another woman and her children over your own. I was the one who went unnoticed, standing at the screen door staring out…keeping watch for the first glimpse of your truck to come into view. I was the little girl who stood alone on dad’s day at school while all of the other little girls daddys were there, laughing…playing…loving their daughters. But I had Christmas, it was the one thing that drew you close to me. It brought you just to the threshold of my life-right on the edge for an hour or two each year and I learned to cling to that moment with all that I had. But then, I was just a little girl-and who would have ever thought that I could have had feelings and thoughts that were all of my own? Certainly not you. You never did.
As an adult I watched your choice to steer your life clear of mine as you buried yourself in your little trailer and withdrew the rest of your love from me. I tried to be what you needed. I bet you never realized it, but I tried to find some part of you that hadn’t been sealed away from me-a way into your life. You had tolerated me for a while after your first granddaughter was born. I even believed that she may have been the key to keeping you close to me. But I was wrong, because you always had choices and I never made cut and in those final years, neither did my daughter. So I took her away to protect her from feeling unworthy of your love as I had felt, still felt. Still feel. But you never noticed. You believed that a well placed dollar was worth enough to make up for all of the time you never spent with me. But it wasn’t. And I learned from you that I wasn’t good enough to be important or to love.
Your final choice was death and once again, my love for you was never a consideration. You chose to grasp the cold metal pistol over holding my hand and letting me love you. You chose the stinging bullet over a kiss on the cheek from me. You chose the cold ground over Christmas morning at grandma’s with your children and granddaughters…. with me. But I live with that, you don’t. Every year, I string the bright colored lights on the tree, I hang the ornaments from the branches and I see your face in every package I wrap. And when it’s done, I stand at the screen door and look out into the darkness and realize again that you’re never coming back. That any chance I had at ever being good enough to be your choice is gone and that the love that I cherished most in my life lies still and broken in the cold and silent grave. It’s still every bit as unrecognized and unreturned as it has been all of my life.
Christmas is here once again and I can feel the warmth of those closest to me as they try to fill that emptiness that you left behind. But they can’t. They can only watch as I continue in sadness, pointing out every flaw that I see within myself and weighing them against your decision to leave me over and over again. They say that I am worthy of love and that I am beautiful but that’s so hard to believe when the one man who was supposed to love me most in this world proved time and again that I was not worthy of his love. It’s hard for me to let people inside of my brokenness because I do not want them to see the shattered pieces of my heart. I don’t want them to get too close because I don’t want to feel the pain when abandonment comes and the cycle begins again. The pattern that you set in my childhood has played out on the canvas of my life in every close relationship I have ever had with a man. I realize this now and it’s time for that part of myself to die if I am ever going to learn to live and to be loved in this lifetime.
So, it’s over dad. This is the last Christmas that I will spend second guessing what and who I am. I will always love you-just as much in death as I loved you when you were alive. But, from this moment on I know it has to be about me and not you. I have allowed my heart to become restless as the fear would rip through me at the moment someone began to love me. I would reject it, push it away to protect myself. But I was protecting myself from pain I had already experienced and I’m ready to stop now.
You were restless in life and you are most likely still restless, wherever your spirit has gone. But just in case you’re hanging around from time to time, I want you to know that I forgive you. I miss you and I love you-but I won’t let the consequences of your actions fall on me anymore. You should be the one who is sorry, not me. You spent your entire life running away from love and I have been just like you. And from now on, I’m not going to be. I know how to give love-now I just have to learn how to accept it. I pray that God will help you find peace. I will love you always.